Managing Library Resources

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At any given time in our house we can have at least 100 library resources in our possession. Since our kids are voracious readers, the older ones can easily go through 7 books a week as well as flip through numerous other books for their schoolwork. One hundred books can be quite the load to manage, as you can imagine, and I’ve paid my fair share in library late fees and replacement costs.

We’re working to reduce this however. The library is offered as a “free service” and I, for one would like to keep it that way.

Here are some ways that we keep track of our library stuff — and hopefully avoid fines.

One library card

We maintain one library account for the entire family. In this way, I can better track our checkouts online, and it simplifies things immensely. My kids don’t experience that rite of passage in getting their own library cards, but everybody seems to be okay with that.

Our library offers both a keychain card and a wallet card for each account, so FishPapa and I each have one. He can pick up our holds on the way home from work without my needing to remember to give him the card.

One storage location

We have a large bookcase on the schoolroom wall that houses the library books. If a book isn’t actively being read, it should be shelved here. This doesn’t always happen, but we’re working on it. I know some families use bins or baskets, but we needed something out of FishChick2’s reach, so a high shelf works for us.

Likewise, we keep a bin on a shelf above the TV for library DVDs. Unfortunately, our DVD checkouts have not been free due to lost or broken disks, so we are considering eliminating the whole DVD checkout thing in exchange for Netflix streaming.

A notebook to track returns

This summer our library system converted to a new checkout system which had quite a few bugs in it. While I’m sure we didn’t handle checkouts perfectly, there were several occasions when I was sure we had returned a resource, but they could not find it. And while most of the librarians are quite polite and understanding, I’ve encountered more than one Library Ninja.

So, to keep track of what I was returning, I started a library notebook. I list the library resources returned and write down the date we returned it and which location we took it to. While it’s still my word against the library’s, this is much better than a recollection of putting it in the library bag. It takes some time to get things ready for the library trip, but we haven’t had a resource go AWOL since we started this method.

What do you do to keep library fines at bay?

Check out Works for Me Wednesday for more ideas to improving your life.

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  1. I’ve been trying to make a better effort of using our library. I have a designated basket for the kids’ library books. I love your idea of having a notebook to keep track of what’s checked out and what has been turned back in. I’m going to start doing that as well!

  2. Great ideas. We have a tote bag designated for library books, and our library gives us a “receipt” of books checked out to us with due dates. My only problem is not getting there more often! There aren’t enough hours in the day!

  3. These are great ideas! My hubby says we could pay for a new wing of the library with the fines we’ve paid. ๐Ÿ™

  4. my library works in conjunction with Library Elf, an online service that sends emails to remind of materials due or holds that are ready. for the past couple of years, they have offered MaiLit, where I can place materials on hold online and they are mailed to me for FREE!

  5. This summer my kids fell in love with the library. I usually let them pick out about 8-10 books each. Library books live on our “launching pad” (thanks FlyLady) book shelf whenever they are not being read. Our library also gives us a printout of the books we are taking out. We also get an email reminder of upcoming due dates.

    The best part…4 renewals per book. We are on renewal number 2 for a Dora book my daughter says is “hiding” from her.

  6. Our library is pretty sophisticated and I get an email 3 days before our books are due. We have a rule that you can only check out books to match your age (5 yo can get 5 books), which helps the chaos a little.

    FishMama, have you thought of taking a digital pic of the stack of books before returning? Might be easier than writing them all down.

    1. @BrownThumbMama, I’m liking that digital picture thing. Can you just see me in the library taking photographic proof of returning books?! LOL!

      I’m also thinking that saving the receipts and stapling them in the notebook could work also.

  7. I don’t know if the library we go to has ‘library elf,’ but my husband and I go to the library often. We each have our own card (account). The library system sends a notice when books are coming due in 3 days and it’s possible to renew on-line (one renew per book). Yes, we have a library shelf at home and line up books by order due or read and ready to return. I use renew if I can’t make it to the library or just want the book for 3 more weeks. (also saves me the fines)

  8. To help control library fines, see if your library is in the system at If so, sign up and you’ll email reminders about books due. They have a free side and a paid side w/additional features and ability to have more than 1 account linked to a card.

  9. Awesome job on this post. I work at a library as well. One thing we offer is a print out of all materials checked out on your card.
    The idea about keeping everything in a central location is great too.
    Keep using the library – I like job security ๐Ÿ™‚
    Joy at Books and Life

  10. I’m a librarian so luckily I don’t get overdues ๐Ÿ™‚ But there are online services like Libraryelf that will email you notices when your items are coming due. Also many library catalogues offer a reminder service that sends out reminders as well (BiblioCommons – a catalogue that is taking over the library world by storm has this service).

  11. Our library will only allow 7 DVD/CD’s out to an account at a time and kids who do NOT attend school cannot have a card until they are 12 (homeschool kids k-age 12 can’t have one). They charge $1 a day for late DVD/CD’s with a $35 maximum fine then you buy it. The nice thing is DVD’s are a week check out and CD’c are a month. If you want to check out books by the same aurthor there is a 3 book limit. Our library also has a used book section where you can buy paperbacks for 2/.25 or hardbacks 1/.75 or AV items for $1. We have found some real treasures there. As a homeschool mom it is hard to do library books with a 25 book and 7 DVD/CD limit per card if I want to read any also. We go to the library at least once a week and but most weeks twice.

  12. We have a tote bag that we keep by the back door that holds all our library books. We ususally have about 20 books at a time. We also only use one account it makes it much easier to keep track of what we have out. I have a hold on our account for no DVDs, CDs, etc., only books. I got tired of late fees and lost/scratched DVDs.

    This post just reminded me that I have books due tomorrow. Off to the library website to renew them now.

  13. We homeschool and check out at least 50 books/week. It can be a chore looking for that one last book. I’ve had to set a few new rules because I was losing my sanity. I keep all their books in a crate in our family room. They are allowed to read the books in that room only.

    Our library system prints the receipts and we also have online access to view our accounts and renew online as needed. This is a life saver! The day we’re heading to the library I print our lists and check off the ones we’re returning. They go straight into a bag and once they’re in the bag the kids can’t take it out. That way I know they’ve truly made the return trip to the library.

    If you have a copier…copy the spines of a stack of books you will be returning. This will save having to write out a list.

  14. When I was a teenager, we had trouble for a while with the library “losing” books we had returned, and telling us they hadn’t been turned in. (On more than one occasion, Mom walked back and found it on the shelf, where they had reshelved it without checking it in through the system.) She started taking all the books we were returning, lining them up on the copier, and making a photocopy of all of the spines. That way when they lost one, she could say, “Look, I returned all of these together. If you have the other 37, why do you not have those 2?” It helped make it a little less “her word against theirs.”

  15. We borrow a LOT from the library – we currently have about 80 items out, and that is fairly typical. My youngest likes a huge variety, so probably 10-15 are just his picture books and easy storybooks alone, along with some audio books for him and then books for the other kids and myself and a few dvds. Our library is online with the reminder going to my email account, so I check it every day and renew things. I also check at night and will make an early morning trip to the bookdrop to get overdue things in before the library is open – they will not charge if its in the book drop prior to the library doors opening!

    We keep our items in a basket except for dvd’s which I stack next to the tv and then any books I or the older kids are reading.

    We public school, so I also need to track those books as well. For my youngest, I write down the title of his book on the day its due back on my central calendar. For one of my other boys, who is a bit unorganized, I write down the titles of his books in his assignment book so all I need to do is remind him to gather his books and he can look at the titles to remind him if he needs to. He also limits himself to 2 books a week, even though is able to get 3 – he is NOT a reader. My daughter is able to track hers on her own.

    I go to the library VERY frequently – I don’t spend money on books much anymore unless I have a gift card or we hit a used book sale. And although I try to avoid the fines, I figure those are my “donations” to my library!!!

  16. *Sigh*

    My books are ALWAYS late. But I am resolved to get them in on time. I am! I might have to try the notebook. My husband always jokes that the librarians KNOW me and automatically go towards the cash register when I walk through the door. Soooo sad.

  17. We corral our library books in a big plastic collapsible rolling tote box. All library books and videos are kept in the tote. When my kids are done reading for the day, the book goes back in the box where they can pick it up again the next day. My library prints receipts, which makes it fairly easy to keep track of everything. Another idea I have seen to help keep track of what you check out if your library doesn’t print receipts is to make a photocopy of the spines of the books you check out, and then just write the due date on the top of the page.

  18. We go to the library about once every two weeks. My kids LOVE the thin beginning readers books, usually the ones based on popular cartoons like Clifford or Dora. We checkout 30-40 at a time … With that number, it would just be too much to sit down and write them all into a notebook.

    I usually count the kids books when we walk inside, write the number on a post-it note and place it on my wall organizer. Kids books go into a drawer in the living room for easy access (easier than trying to keep them standing up on a shelf somewhere) and my books go into my room.

    The kids have to ask before they can read their library books – I usually always let them but sometimes the living room is too much of a disaster zone and I fear books will poof away. They know the books go back to the drawer when they’re done. Every once in a while (usually once or twice a week), Mama pulls a surprised inspection and checks the numbers – if we’re missing some (which is really rare), we tear apart the house until we find it. That way, we’re not ripping apart the place the day of our next library visit.

    The night before we plan to go to the library, books are gathered, counted, and placed in the library bag. Then the bag is set by the front door so it isn’t forgotten. (Yes, I once forgot the bag of library books – don’t ask – it was a really bad week.)

    This seems to work for us… I call it “organized chaos”. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  19. I wish my children would read one chapter book from front to back each week…. 100 book? Wow!

    Currently we have a $50 fine at the public library… so we have not been in almost a year. I am so bad.

    The notebook is an excellent idea.

    1. @Crystal & Co, Can you negotiate with them at all? Our librarians will usually cut the fine in half if I beg and plead hard enough. Especially if I do the pee pee dance whilst my young children cry hysterically. “Please librarian dragon, oh please reduce my fines!” Try it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  20. I don’t have near as many library books to keep track of as you do, but I do go to a couple different libraries which can be difficult to keep track of. I put the date in my Google calendar for when library books are due, and that helps. I also have a library bag where I keep all the receipts that the library gives every time we check something out. That way, I can make sure I have all the books that are due when it comes time to take a trip to the library. Also, one of the libraries emails me every time a due date is coming up. I love that service!

  21. I keep track of everything online. & The key tag is taped to my monitor so I know the #. We only have one card for the family & we have a limit of 50 things; I think only 15 can be DVD/CD—which we might put an end too since they are routinely late. ):
    I have a small laundry basket by the front door to hold everything.

  22. We use to keep track of when everything is due. I can link multiple cards to my account and then receive a reminder e-mail prior to the item’s due date. It makes thinking of what books/videos are due when so much easier! Best part is it’s free!!

    1. @Sara, We also use Library elf. They now charge us an annual fee of $20, but it is still well worth it. I link mine and my five children’s cards and can check all the cards anytime. They also email and/or text reminders. It has saved me a ton in fines and my sanity, lol. Our library system only allows 20 books per card, so there is no way for me to have just one family card.

      Also, during different months our library offers forgiveness of fines for donating canned food for a local food bank. I use my coupon deals to forgive any fines incurred.

  23. Our library doesn’t have late fees on kids cards, so our kids get their own cards. But CDs & DVDs can’t be checked out on those cards. I currently have a missing CD that they want $35 to replace. I MUST find it! I swore I returned it but I checked the shelf. Bummer.

  24. Unfortunately I owe a few bucks in fines right now. No good excuse, just a case of lazy brain.

    Is it weird that I’m jealous of your handwriting? ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. Well, you got me on this one. I just can’t do it. I gave up on the library years ago, except on very rare occasions. I just couldn’t stand to return good books! Instead, years ago, we started buying our own copies of things. Now, granted, that doesn’t work for everything, but by frequenting our “Friends of the Library” book store and keeping a good list of “wants”, we now have a really wonderful home library with over 4500 volumes!! We spent the summer organizing and cataloging everything on so that we can now find what we need and return it more easily. When we were using the public library, we also had to keep everything in one place to make sure we returned it. Now, my main issue is making sure other people return what they borrow from our library. ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. we can only have one card for the family since we do not have a library in our town, and we have the use of a library in a close town. This is the way its set up.
    We try and keep the kids books in the same spot, and I usually one have one library book out at a time, that I would be reading.
    We also can check on line to see when things are due back, and what we have.
    So far no charges for us!

  27. Awesome tips! We keep ours in one location and only use one card for the whole family, but I had never thought about the return notebook.

    We currently have a book listed as checked out that we don’t have in the house. I know I’ve turned it in and just keep rechecking it out hoping maybe they’ll find it.

    We also currently have one checked out (that I picked up at the holds drive thru) that’s not listed on our account. They’ve also just done some major renovation to their checkout system and I suspect that is to blame.

    Having a notebook would be great for times like these. I’m definitely going to start doing this.


    1. @Laura, I’m in library school right now and I work in my university library. It’s entirely possible that the book you returned just got reshelved without being checked back in. I won’t go into specifics but they could have processed it without checking it back in. I would suggest you personally go look for that book (if your library system is small enough that you could do that) and/or contact them directly about it so they can send their employees on a search. You may have already done either of those things but if you haven’t, it may be a way for you to get out of a fine! ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. @Sarah K. @ The Pajama Chef, Thank you for your ideas. I actually did go in this evening and got it squared away. They were very helpful and actually did all the leg work themselves. The lady that was helping me called a little while later and let me know she did find the book on their shelves!! All is well and there’s no fine for it being “late.” I do know that we’re all human and anyone could have let a book slip through without it getting checked back in. I worked at Blockbuster many years ago and completely understand how something of that nature happens!!

  28. Great article! We have a shelf for our books, tooโ€”actually it’s on top of the bookcase, out of reach of the baby, just like you. When the books are done they go back in the library bag.

    Our library allows only 15 children’s books per card, so I’m actually thinking of getting my four-year-old his own! I’d rather keep a family account, though.

    My tip: I have my library’s site bookmarked on the toolbar of my browser. Right-click on the bookmark and go into properties. Then type in your library card numbers. Keeping the numbers right there allows me to log in without having my library card right there, and to hijack my husband’s account too!

  29. I love the idea of keeping all the library materials in one location! My son tends to read all over the house, so I always have to search for books.

    Luckily, our library prints a receipt when we check out books. It goes straight on the fridge until the books are returned. And if we return just a few from the list, they get crossed out. It’s saved us from so many late fees!